Polar Medal

Professor Michael Hambrey.

Professor Michael Hambrey.

14 December 2011

Aberystwyth University glaciologist, Professor Michael Hambrey, is to receive a second clasp to his Polar Medal from the Queen for his research on glaciers in Antarctica.

Professor Hambrey, a member of the Centre for Glaciology at the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, was first awarded the Medal in 1989 for research in both Polar Regions, and now joins an elite list of recipients who have earned the award a second time.

He has taught geology and physical geography at Aberystwyth since 1998. He was instrumental in establishing the Climate Change Consortium of Wales in 2009, becoming its first Director. 

He has undertaken extensive field research on the response of glaciers and ice sheets to climate change, not only in the Antarctic and Arctic, but also the Alps, the Himalaya and the Andes.

In total he has spent 10 field seasons in Antarctica and around 20 in the Arctic, and has a further trip to Antarctica planned in February.

The citation from the UK Hydrographic Office reads: “Her Majesty the Queen has been graciously pleased to award you the second clasp to your Polar Medal in recognition of your continued outstanding work on glaciology which has contributed to the scientific service of the United Kingdom research and survey in Antarctica”.

Speaking after the announcement, Professor Hambrey said: “I feel deeply honoured to receive this award, but it would not have been possible without the unstinting support of colleagues and graduate students, as well as the financial and logistical support of numerous international organisations.”

“Our research is crucial to understanding how the “cryosphere” (the ice and snow on the planet) is responding to climate change. Receding glaciers worldwide, in particular, are a clear signal of the impact of global warming. As glaciologists, fieldwork takes us to some of the most beautiful regions on Earth, as viewers of the BBC1 series on the “Frozen Planet” will no doubt appreciate.”

“Yes, the work can be tough and frustrating, such as when camping out on an ice shelf and experiencing a five-day blizzard, as happened to a group of us last December in Antarctica. However, the compensations are immense: magnificent icy landscape, close encounters with wildlife and good companionship, and even the satisfaction of writing up our results and experiencing the rigours of the peer-review process.”

The Polar Medal was established in 1904 to reward the contribution of Captain Robert Scott’s team members to exploration of Antarctica. Other recipients have been the other famed Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, Sir Wally Herbert who made the first crossing of the Arctic Ocean via the North Pole, and contemporary explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Professor Hambrey will receive the award at an investiture at Buckingham Palace in early 2012.

Footnote: Some of Professor Hambrey’s images from the Arctic and Antarctic may be found on his website www.glaciers-online.net.